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‘Absolutely unacceptable’: Rioters set fires, smash windows in Montreal curfew protest

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MONTREAL —
Montreal police arrested seven people and continue to investigate after rioters smashed windows and set fires in Old Montreal during a large protest that took place in violation of city’s curfew on Sunday evening. 

A crowd had initially gathered in Place Jacques Cartier, chanting slogans such as “Freedom for the Young.” However, some present began setting fires in garbage cans and smashing windows of nearby storefronts. Riot police soon moved in, firing tear gas.

On Monday, Const. Veronique Compois said police were investigating multiple reports of mischief, arson, obstructing a police officer and breaking and entering. Officers also handed out 107 tickets to people who violated public health measures. 

Mayor Valerie Plante condemned the riot, calling it “absolutely unacceptable” in a tweet Monday morning

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“Fatigue linked to our fight against #COVID19 does not in any way justify the destruction of public property and failure to respect the rules. We must remain united and stick together,” the mayor said. 

She also said businesses were ransacked Sunday night and encouraged residents to visit Old Montreal to support the merchants in the area. 

By 9:45, the crowd had been mostly dispersed, leaving widespread damage in their wake. 

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The owner of Notre Dame St.’ Rooney Shop took to his Instagram page to post a picture of his store’s smashed window. 

“People are mad at the provincial government for their decision to bring back the earlier curfew so they decided to take it out on small businesses. I wonder if this helped,” he wrote.

One shoestore owner in Old Montreal said the riot took her by complete surprise. 

“They damaged some shoes, they stole some things, so I’m looking at at least $10,000 in damage,” she told CTV News. 

Observing the aftermath of the riot Monday morning, others on the street were also shocked at how the demonstration turned violent. 

“I don’t really know what to say. It’s called (civil disobedience ) and violence should never be an option,” one woman said.  

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante

As of Sunday evening, curfew begins at 8 p.m. rather than 9:30 p.m. in Montreal and Laval. While Quebec has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases over the past week, with each day seeing at least 1,100 new cases, numbers have been somewhat stable in Montreal. The curfew change was announced earlier in the week by Premier Francois Legault, who said it was a preventive measure in anticipation of an explosion of COVID-19 cases due to the virus’ variants.

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Doctors have warned that they are seeing a larger proportion of younger patients being hospitalized due to the virus than during the virus’ first two waves. 

The gathering comes a day after a large protest against public health measures such as mandatory mask-wearing and alternating attendance in Quebec’s schools.  

At least one Instagram account called for a second night of protests to be held on Monday. 

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